What Does a Five-Star Book Actually Mean?

It occurred to me recently, when I was writing my last Reflection post to be precise, that there are some real flaws in the way in which I rate the books I read. To begin with, I gave six out of the nine books on that post five out of five stars. While I did read some very good books in those months, looking back, that seems to suggest that six out of the nine books I read I virtually could not fault. Now, that seems pretty improbable to me. I’ve never actually sat down to think about what each rating really means, meaning there’s been very little consistency in what I would actually define as a five star read. Due to that, I thought that I’d come up with some clear and concise criteria of my own that I will follow when rating books in the future, rather than just thinking ‘I enjoyed that book! Five out of five stars it is!’ The bullet points suggest certain things that would result in me giving a book a particular rating, although the book doesn’t have to meet every single point to get that rating.

I’m not going to go through every single review I’ve done and change my ratings as that really would take forever, but I thought I’d give an indication of some of the ratings I have given in the past, and where they would fall under the new criteria. If I haven’t stated a previous rating, this means the book stays where it is!

One Star (I really disliked it)

  • I disliked the writing style a lot.
  • There was no character I liked/no character I felt any emotion towards, or the protagonist was not three-dimensional.
  • I wasn’t gripped by the plot at all.
  • The book was offensive/dealt with serious topics poorly.

Books I would place in this category: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (previously three stars), Banished by Liz de Jager (previously three stars)…

Two Stars (I disliked it / Felt nothing towards it)

  • The writing style was very basic or confusing.
  • I didn’t mind the characters, but they were forgettable.
  • The plot was unrealistic in the context/didn’t encourage me to want to keep reading.

Books I would place in this category: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (previously three stars), Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart…

Three Stars (It was okay)

  • The writing style didn’t stand out, but wasn’t bad.
  • There were some interesting characters.
  • The plot was gripping in parts, or enough to keep me interested.
  • It is unlikely I would ever read this book again.

Books I would place in this category: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (previously four stars), History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, Carol by Patricia Highsmith…

Four Stars (I liked it / I liked it a lot)

  • I really liked the writing style.
  • The characters were very developed and believable.
  • The plot gripped me throughout.
  • I would consider reading this book again.

Books I would place in this category: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (previously five stars), Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell…

Five Stars (I loved it / Almost could not fault it)

  • It was beautifully written.
  • The characters were well-developed and complex.
  • The plot was gripping, to the point where I almost could not put it down.
  • The book had a profound impact on me.
  • It is highly likely I would read this book again.

Books I would place in this category: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky…

I must say, this post has been particularly useful to me to help work out how I actually classify the books I read. I’m so excited to start using this criteria from now on and start improving the accuracy of my reviews!

I’m really interested to hear about how other people sort their reviews – are you too nice with your reviewing like I was, or do you prefer to be overly critical? Do you have your own system? (If you do and you have a post or page explaining it please link it below; I’d be fascinated to check it out!)

– Bex



5 thoughts on “What Does a Five-Star Book Actually Mean?

  1. I find rating books a confusing task, in all honesty. On the one hand, I think it is good to rate books immediately after you’ve read them as it’s an honest and immediate reaction. However, as demonstrated here, that rating can often change upon reflection, whether that’s after days, months, or even years. Thus, on the other hand, I think it’s good to have a rating system like this one as means of a proper reflection on the book. But then does that take something away from your experience if you think “Wow, this is an incredible book!”, sit down to look at the rating system to compare it against, and then feel a bit disappointed to almost immediately realise that maybe it /doesn’t/ match up to your own standards? I don’t know, it’s a tricky one, and I can see both the benefits and negatives of using a system as I’ve often considered making one myself!! (Sorry for the super long comment 😘)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I completely understand having a system for a more genuine rating! I just know I’m the sort of person who’d feel a bit bogged down by it, wanting to give an immediate rating and then a reflection like you’ve done here much later on 😅 Definitely right in that every person is different!!

        Liked by 1 person

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